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Former Miss Venezuela shot dead
Former Miss Venezuela shot dead

CARACAS (Reuters) - Assailants shot dead a former Miss Venezuela and her ex-husband in the latest high-profile case of violent crime in the South American nation, authorities said on Tuesday.

Monica Spear, 29, who was also a soap opera actress, and Henry Berry, 39, died in an attempted robbery on the highway between Puerto Cabello and Valencia in central Venezuela.

The 2004 Miss Venezuela winner lived in the United States but was vacationing in Venezuela.

Monica Spear and her husband, Thomas Berry, were killed after their car broke down in Venezuela. Photo: Facebook.

Police say the armed robbers approached the stranded couple as they waited in their car for a repair truck. When the terrified couple locked themselves in the Toyota Corolla, the robbers fired through the windows.

The pair's five-year-old daughter survived the attack late on Monday, but with a bullet wound in her leg, the government and local media said.

Miss Universe 2005 contestant Monica Spear of Venezuela, models during a swimwear competition in Bangkok in this file picture taken May 26, 2005. Photo: Reuters.

Reports indicated Spear's car may have broken down before armed robbers approached - a common occurrence on roads after dark in one of the world's most violent nations.

Showbiz colleagues were devastated.

"I'm so sad for my Venezuela, my condolences for Monica Spear's family. Rage and impotence are what I feel right now," wrote Venezuelan salsa singer Oscar D'Leon on Twitter.

Monica Spear of Venezuela takes part in an AIDS candlelight memorial in a Bangkok hotel to remember those who have lost their lives to the disease. Photo: Reuters.

Another friend of the family, Carlos Drakkar, said these attacks happen too often in the embattled area.

"This is a very difficult moment for all of us to deal with. We are doing all we can to help out friends in this difficult moment," he said.

"These things happen all too often in this country. Something has to change."

Thomas and Monica on their wedding day in June 2008. Photo: Facebook.

Venezuela's official homicide rate late year was 39 per 100,000 inhabitants, but local non-government organisations put the figure at nearly twice that for a total of 24,000 deaths.

President Nicolas Maduro has declared beating violent crime his No. 1 priority, and polls consistently show it to be Venezuelans' main concern.

But opponents say the government's anti-crime plans are not tackling root causes, such as impunity for criminals, corrupt courts and police complicity in some crime.

Spear and her husband were killed when armed robbers shot through their car. Photo: AFP.

(Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Brian Ellsworth and Stephen Powell)